- The media industry has had several major shakeups since 2010 that saw publishers and staffers navigating new platforms.
- While some outlets suffered amid gambles like pivoting to video content, others flourished by employing podcasting or getting a slice of streaming-centric audiences.
- Amid the wave of allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, the media industry had its own reckoning with shakeups following sexual misconduct allegations against some of the most powerful and iconic figures of news and entertainment.
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The media industry went through massive, unprecedented changes in the last decade that left publishers and staffers alike stuck navigating a new world different platforms.
Outlets struggled with the urge to stay on-trend, following trends like pivoting to video.
By 2019, podcasts and streaming won audiences over across genres.
See how the media has changed in the last 10 years.
In 2010, Americans were spending more time online, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter became mainstays for staying up to date.
Facebook’s News Feed and Twitter’s timeline were iconic features of the platforms that directly catered to keeping readers’ attention with content throughout the day on both desktop and mobile devices.
In 2010, a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 61% of Americans get some of their news online, and CNN reported at the time that 75% of those surveyed said they got news from email or sites like Facebook and Twitter while 37% of people said they shared news on social media, indicating the rise of news as a point of social media participation.
By 2014, Facebook was home to trending terms, hashtags, and pages belonging to news outlets that eventually permeated users’ news feeds.
The News Feed’s turn to embracing the news halfway through the decade created a taste among users to expect local, national, and international headlines to come to them on their home screen.
By 2014, the Pew Center found that around 50% of people intake, share, and discuss news on Facebook. As people’s willingness to engage with news on social media rose, so did the pitfalls of consuming it, with the rise in prevalance of conspiracy theories and fake news.
Halfway through the decade, online outlets gambled with a huge turn to video.
By 2015, Facebook’s increasing preference for video content prompted a flashpoint in the industry where outlets were producing more content geared toward reaching audiences through the social platforms, including longform and live video.
By 2019, the platform announced it was establishing Facebook News, a dedicated hub that curates a select number of media outlets.
The announcement of the hub came after the site caught criticism for several years over its open gates that allowed fake news from dubious sources to reach unsuspecting readers. Facebook said it would try and monitor such content with software and third-party fact-checkers.
The issue of fake news reaching huge amounts of users came to a head in the 2016 US presidential election, when around 60% of people were getting news from social media, and Facebook became a major hub for fake news and disinformation that would go viral with the help of the site’s algorithm delivering the outrageous ads and articles to people who had relevant interests.
An interactive by The Wall Street Journal published in May 2016 showed the vastly different fake articles and ads one could expect depending on their presented political leaning.
The 2017 Freedom on the Net report found that online “manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role” in elections in 18 countries, including the US, and largely pointed to Russian interference.
Research by the Pew Center found that around the same percentage of Americans used social media for news in 2018, but in general had become much more skeptical of the sources and stories they see on their feeds.
After complaints from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 200 Facebook employees in late 2019 that the site allowed fake ads to run unchecked, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg defended the site’s open-market policy, as part of a “democracy.”
Since 2010, the rise of streaming platforms has led a large chunk of young adults to cut the cord and get online subscriptions.
In 2015, CD sales raked in just $1.5 billion, a drop of 84% in 10 years, according to the New York Times. In 2016, streaming reportedly made up 34.3 % of music industry sales, with Spotify subscriptions, Pandora Internet radio, and YouTube videos totaling $2.4 billion.
By 2019, streaming services racked up $4.3 billion in revenue, or 80% of the music industry’s total, and membership had grown by 31% within the year.
Services including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video created a generation of binge-watchers that paid for subscriptions to devour original series from the platforms and enjoy old licensed classics.
In 2010, Netflix had 15 million total subscribers. By 2019, it was just shy of 150 million. The streaming giant’s growth was mirrored by the smaller but still popular Hulu subscription, which had around 1.5 million subscribers one year after its 2010 launch and 25 million in 2018.
By the end of the decade, the massive popularity, ease-of-access, and relatively inexpensive cost of streaming services had many customers considering cutting the cord, and forced cable companies to come up with cheaper, skinnier packages to compete with the services.
Podcasting exploded as a digital storytelling medium that offered longform content.
The term “podcast” was first coined by journalist Ben Hammersley in The Guardian in 2004, as digital music was rapidly developing.
One early hit within the medium was the public-radio program This American Life, which launched in podcast form in 2006.
However, as digital streaming platforms like Spotify became ubiquitous in the hands of potential listeners in the years after 2010, podcasts exploded to offer in-depth series that explored an entire world of topics, including politics, culture, and miscellaneous stories that gripped audiences.
Serial, a series on a murder in Baltimore County in 1999 that debuted in 2014, was a smash hit of the decade when it hit more than 5 million downloads and streams from the Apple store alone, proving the power podcasts held to engage a massive audience with high-quality storytelling, even if it was a niche subject.
By 2019, podcasts became a key part of brand presence to develop audiences in technology, strategy, and retail.
After the medium proved to be a hit, everyday enthusiasts had new avenues to make money through advertising and crowdfunding sites as the listener base steadily grew from 2013 to 2016, nearly doubling to 21% of Americans age 12 or older, according to the Pew Research Center.
In addition to homegrown programming trying to get a slice of the growing listenership, new-media outlets like subscription-based newsletter The Skimm were quick to map out a sponsorship model based on its podcasts and found success around the time President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
In addition to news-centric programming, brands like McDonald’s, GE, Sephora, and more engage audiences through series that feature everything from industry interviews to entertaining investigative-style stories.
After allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein rocked Hollywood, the #MeToo movement hit the news indsutry.
- CJ Rivera/Getty Images, Wesley Mann/FOX News via Getty Images, Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson triggered a massive media upheaval in July 2016 at Fox News when she claimed in a lawsuit that she was fired for refusing sexual advances from network head Roger Ailes, who left the two weeks after her allegation went public.
In April 2017, a New York Times report found that Fox News had paid out settlements totaling $13 million to five women who had accused longtime anchor Bill O’Reilly of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse. O’Reilly denied the allegations, but the show bled advertisers before it was canceled weeks later.
Elsewhere at the top networks, former NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired in 2017 after NBC said an employee accused him of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” amid a flurry of reports detailed other allegations of sexual misconduct, including making lewd comments to female colleagues, exposing himself, and using a security device to close women in his office with him.
“CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose was fired by CBS and PBS in November 2017, one day after The Washington Post published a story that detailed allegations from multiple women who accused Rose of groping and other unwanted sexual advances.
The revelations appeared to be long overdue, and provoked an array of criticism concerning the overall makeup of the industry.
In October 2017, the “shitty media men” spreadsheet went viral, when women could anonymously post their experiences with various men in the industry.
“What #MeToo Means for Corporate America,” a 2018 study by workplace thinktank the Center for Talent Innovation, found that about 41% of women in media and entertainment say they’ve been sexually harassed by a colleague or boss at some point in their careers, which Variety reported was the highest rate among white-collar industries.
“In media, the power dynamics are more skewed than in other industries,” Ripa Rashid, a lead author of the study, told the outlet, adding that media’s relationship-driven nature and silos of money and power lend to abuse by powerful figures.
Despite the huge push to stay on-trend with video and the move online, waves of layoffs hit media giants throughout the decade.
Traditional news outlets came to a head with sites that popped up around the beginning of the decade, offering instant news that was accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
Legacy publications like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Washington Post took the leap into online publishing and found a growing audience over the course of the decade, according to the Times.
On the other end of the spectrum, digital-native sites like BuzzFeed, founded in 2006, and Vox, founded in 2011 were some of the biggest names to embark on the unclear path of designing a profitable model for online journalism. Being at the mercy of digital feeds like Facebook jolted audience numbers when changes in the algorithm later in the decade pushed back on the content’s reach.
The digital-native publications fielded mixed results by the end of the decade.
Mic famously pivoted to video based on Facebook traffic before its show was ultimately canceled. In 2018 it laid off nearly its entire staff before being acquired by Bustle Digital Group – a company known for buying struggling media brands for cheap.
In 2019 alone, more than 7,700 media jobs were cut from outlets like Spin, ThinkProgress, Disney, BuzzFeed, Verizon, and Vice Media.
As some experts warn of a recession set to hit sometime in the next few years, layoffs could remain a top concern among the media industry.
A lawsuit brought by wrestling figure Hulk Hogan set a new precedent for law facing online publications and led to the demise of Gawker, a notorious news and gossip site.
The former professional wrestler sued when Gawker published a portion of a sex tape he appeared in, which the site says was mailed in by an anonymous source.
A Florida jury awarded Hogan $140 million, which forced Gawker and owner Nick Denton into bankruptcy and sale at auction.
In addition to killing the sometimes controversial site, the case raised questions about the parameters of press rights and celebrity privacy in the age of digital journalism.
The local news industry continued to freefall.
Circulation and ad sales of local news outlets had been in a gradual downfall since the 1990s, reportedly crumbling from $48 billion in 2000 to $16.5 billion in 2017.
On top of the initial downfalls after free online news and classified ads had lured customers away from paying for local subscriptions, weakened outlets were left vulnerable to sweeping sales and gradual decimation, creating news deserts.
One early example of vulnerable local media splintering under the pressure of the greater industry came in the form of Randall Smith, an investor who raised eyebrows early in the decade when he began snapping up regional outlets and entire newspaper companies before gutting newsroom staffs to keep a slim operation running.
Those sales were a small part of the overall industry breakdown, as it was reported in 2019 that 2,000 papers had closed since 2004.
After a $1.4 billion merger between Gannett and GateHouse Media was announced in August 2019, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote that the industry was in a full-on existential crisis and the massive merger was “one more step along that dire path.”
Some of the biggest media mergers of all time took place within the decade, pointing to the industry’s power tilting in favor of massive conglomerates.
The years after 2010 marked a massive wave of mergers within the media industry that created mega-owners in news, film, and television.
Fox Business reported that four of the five biggest media mergers of all time happened between 2010 and 2020, including:
- AT&T Inc. acquiring DirecTV for $66.5 billion in 2014
- Charter Communications Inc. acquiring Time Warner Cable Inc. for $87.4 billion in 2015
- AT&T Inc. acquiring Time Warner Inc. for $101 billion in 2016
- Walt Disney Co. acquiring Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. for $71.3 Billion in 2019
The massive deals fostered by executives in the legacy media companies were a defense effort against streaming and digital-native giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, Variety reported.